This week, Congress interviews President-elect Trump’s cabinet nominees. Republican congressional leaders are pushing through hearings on these nominees without first completing the basic security and ethics checks required for executive branch officials. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed these checks as “little procedural complaints,” despite calling this process necessary four years ago—when the nominees in question were President Obama’s. Because President-Elect Trump’s cabinet is set to be the wealthiest in history (by a long shot) the offices in charge of vetting the cabinet are overwhelmed. By rushing the nominations, the Office of Government Ethics protests that the Senate’s action leaves “some of the nominees with potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues shortly before their scheduled hearings.”
One of the most controversial nominees is Rex W. Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil. Much of the controversy around Mr. Tillerson has focused on his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But there are other concerning implications of Mr. Tillerson’s corporate position. The Washington Post ran a story on Monday analyzing Mr. Tillerson’s role in Exxon “placing the company’s financial interests above the American goal of creating a stable, cohesive Iraq” during the Iraq War. Exxon is also under investigation in Nigeria for bribery and corruption charges related to a $1.5 billion oil rights deal. Exxon has also faced numerous human rights complaints. For example, Indonesians have alleged that Exxon was responsible for the brutal practices by security forces guarding Exxon’s oil fields and that Exxon officials—including Mr. Tillerson—condoned these practices. And Exxon’s own founding family, the Rockefellers, has disavowed Mr. Tillerson’s Exxon for hiding the known effects of climate change. Nineteen state Attorney Generals are investigating these claims, and have found themselves facing swift retaliatory action, with Exxon alleging these AGs committed a “conspiracy.”
As Secretary of State, Mr. Tillerson will be responsible for confronting questions of foreign investment, human rights, post-war rebuilding, and climate change—exactly those issues that Exxon has been accused of manipulating, abusing, or ignoring for the benefit of the company. Of course, Mr. Tillerson is not Exxon personified; he may personally hold very different opinions than the company line.
What do you think? Should Congress hold Exxon allegations against Rex Tillerson?
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